We investigated the relationship between 24-h blood pressure (BP) and cognitive function. We performed the Hasegawa Dementia Scale Revised (HDSR), the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), and the Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices Test (RCPM) in 88 subjects (71+/-9 years) with no history of stroke. Ambulatory BP was non-invasively measured using a TM2421 for 24 h in all patients. Whereas 90% of the scores converged into a narrow range between 25 and 30 points in the HDSR and the MMSE tests, the RCPM score was widely distributed, ranging from 9 to 36 points. The subjects were therefore divided into three groups of > or =25, 26-30, and 31-36 according to their RCPM scores. Subjects with lower scores were significantly associated with increased short-term BP variability during the daytime (p<0.05) and had a tendency toward higher nighttime SBP (p=0.05) compared with those with higher scores. Increased short-term variability of daytime BP and high nighttime systolic BP were associated with cognitive impairment as assessed by the RCPM. The RCPM, which can assess the capacity for judgment through visual information processing, may detect earlier stages of cognitive impairment related to high BP. To prevent a deterioration of cognitive function, strict control of nighttime BP and suppression of short-term BP variability are thus necessary.